December 2, 2018

Sunflower: AZT22 - Death Mud Strikes Again

Mike and I were back at it again, up to Sunflower to knock out a portion of our Four Peaks bikepack that we aborted. The weather was looking a bit iffy, but we decided to give it a go in hopes of clearing any catclaw & Manzanita along the way.

Our planned route would take us from Sunflower onto the Arizona Trail for a few miles before climbing FR201 to the Goldridge trail. This would then lead us down to our vehicle at the Deer Creek trailhead south of Rye.
Almost ripe for the pickin'!!

Nice signage at the Sunflower trailhead.

Short connector trail leads across Sycamore Creek to the AZT. I've always encountered water here.

Linking in to the AZT at the tail end of Passage 21.
We rolled under AZ87 and the trail corridor was surprisingly clear of poking vegetation. A few short rubbly ups and downs ensued as we began to distance ourselves from the road.
Vintage AZT sticker. 'Border-To-Border 750 Miles'

So far the trail was riding great, hero dirt actually. The weather was holding off too.

In the distance it appeared the clouds were pushing off and the skies might clear.
Then it happened. The singletrack ended after we went through a gate and the AZT morphed onto a jeep road. At first it was fine, then that awful feeling of slowing tires met by the audible ting, ting, ting of rocks pelting my frame meant only one thing: Death Mud!!! Ack!! We ground to a halt. I immediately began looking for a sizable stick to begin scraping while Mike wasn't quite sure what was going on. It was his first encounter with the peanut butter, cookie dough, death mud or whatever you want to call it. We tried picking different lines to ride, but all were short lived.
The patented Death Mud position. Photo by Mike.

It's not just mud, it's rocks, sticks, grass or whatever you happen to roll over. Photo by Mike.
I was hopeful it would end soon, but couldn't quite recall how long the jeep road section was. We still had a few miles before a short bit of pavement too. I began scouring the topo maps and aerials of the region in hopes of finding a short bailout to the road where we could continue on to FR201. At the very least to see if it was rideable.

It looked like there was a drainage between two properties about 1/4 mile back, so we backtracked through the muck. Lots of scraping followed, but we eventually reached a possible bailout. This didn't last long as it abruptly led us to a 'No Trespassing' sign and no other alternative. On to Plan B.

The next drainage looked much more promising, marginally rideable due to tons of river rock, but we made progress until we were met by the first in a series of barbed wire fences. We didn't see any signage and knew the road - the old Beeline Hwy - was only a few hundred feet away.
Seems doable. Our road exit is by the tall trees behind my head. Photo by Mike.
We climbed over, under and through the fences on our quest for pavement. Then we spotted what looked like a Roman Aqueduct. What the...

Not something I'd expect to see out here. Looks to be more for show than anything else.
By now we were just about in the clear, but heard a dog barking to our right. Sounded kinda big, so we veered left and climbed one last hurdle out to the road.

We then decided to stay with our plan and see how FR201 looked. The old Beeline is closed to through traffic by a series of earthen berms, so I wasn't surprised to see a giant 'Road Closed' sign up ahead. What did surprise me were the padlocks, Private Property & No Trespassing signs posted. Huh? I had ridden through here before without issue. I guess since the road is closed the rancher decided to reclaim his land??

Right about then the weather began turning colder as we flipped around. We decided our 8 mile adventure was enough for the day and called it quits. We'll have to make a return trip in the spring for a proper ride.

Cruising back to Sunflower via old Beeline Hwy. I remember driving this route in the early 90's heading to Payson. Photo by Mike.
Thanks again for tagging along, Mike. I'm sure we'll find a way to keep the adventure meter pegged on the next outing!!

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